WASHINGTON – A spokesman for Maine Sen. Susan Collins said the Republican is “happy representing the people of Maine” despite a whirlwind of rumors Friday listing her among potential contenders to head the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The rumor mill began swirling almost immediately after news broke Friday that the current Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, was resigning to take a post in academia. Inside-the-Beltway journalists, pundits and bloggers began churning out names of would-be candidates.
Collins likely made it onto some lists due, at least in part, to her former position as chairwoman and later ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Collins held the two posts from 2005 to 2012.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., helped keep Collins name out there when he told Politico that she would “make an excellent secretary of Homeland Security.” The BBC, NBC, The Associated Press and other media outlets – including some in Maine – also posted articles mentioning Collins.
Collins’ spokesman, Kevin Kelley, did not explicitly say that Collins was not interested, but indicated Friday evening that the Maine Republican wasn’t planning on dropping her 2014 re-election bid.
“Given Senator Collins’ extensive experience on homeland security issues, it’s not surprising that some might speculate that the president would consider her for this position,” Kelley wrote in an email to the Portland Press Herald. “However, Senator Collins is very happy representing the people of Maine in the U.S. Senate.”
Of course, there is still wiggle room in that statement. And more than a few politicians have made much more definitive statements disavowing any interest in higher-profile positions only to change their minds when the job was offered of the seat became available.
The rumor mill might have been helped along by the fact that Napolitano called Collins personally Friday morning to tell her she was stepping down. Collins said in an interview soon after the conversation that while she did not agree with all of Napolitano’s decisions, she saw her resignation as a loss for the Obama administration.
“I had an excellent relationship with Janet,” Collins said. “We worked extremely closely all of the years she was serving and I was ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security. I think she handled a very difficult job with great confidence.”
Obama has chosen several Republicans to serve in his Cabinet, most recently former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel who he tapped to become Defense Secretary.
Staff within Obama’s office also tentatively contacted former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe – also a Republican – soon after he was elected in 2008 to gauge she would be interestedin a potential Cabinet post. But Snowe said she replied she was content in the Senate.
A moderate Republican who polls suggest is popular with Democrats and independents in Maine, Collins currently does not face a declared primary opponent and is expected at this early stage to easily win the general election.